Alfredo Jaar and Socially Engaged Arts

Alfredo Jaar and Socially Engaged Arts

Alfredo Jaar to me is an artist that I would aim to be like. His work is politically motivated. As it always has been, the world has become so political but yet less engaging. Why is this? Well it is because usually middle Aged men in suits have dragged down politics and policies to slow boring speeches. They do not want you to be interested in what they are legislating or whatever it may be they are doing. If you and your family, friends and neighbours take notice of what politicians and policy makers are doing you, could influence them due to mass movements and therefore stop them in their footsteps.

To me art is a way to make things like ‘politics’ more attractive for people who are not engaged. With the use of exhibitions, installations and even just colour things can be represented differently and therefore be seeing in a new way.

It can also represent things like genocide. Alfredo Jaar’s ‘Rwanda’ project done exactly this. I was very lucky to see his work in Berlin in 2012. It was the first time I had come across an Alfredo Jaar exhibition. What I saw was strong. This project has stuck with me since. This project was ‘Untitled (Newsweek)’. Jaar compared every edition of Newsweek to the genocide in Rwanda.

As you can read above, the image shows what Newsweek was publishing. Below that image is the death toll in Rwanda up as far as June 10th.

The reason this project has stayed with me because during the Rwanda genocide journalism (news) failed to do its job by reporting what has been happening in Rwanda and how the international community failed to act because of many reasons and one of those reason been the costs of intervention. The project was quite simple looking, just like the image below, a display of 17 copies of the front cover of Newsweek and below that image was a death toll or description of what happened in Rwanda on that date.

Lights in the City, Montreal, 1999.

The front page on the first of august 1994 read ‘Hell on Earth’. This was after 800,000 people had been murdered. To me, this display was very respectful to those who had been murdered. It offers a great comparison to what some consider news and what should be news. This is what creativity can do and the use of a museum space.

This is another project I find to be a visual masterpiece. It is referred to as ‘lights in the city’, 1999. This project was based in the rich North American city of Montreal, Canada. Approximately a hundred thousand watts of red lights were installed in a building. The building was called ‘The Cupola of the Marche’. Every time a homeless person entered a shelter located within 500 yards of the cupola, they are free to press a button, which would turn on the red lights on top of the cupola. These lights are so bright that it they can be seen all around the city of Montreal.

This project is read a few ways. I read it as a stop light. A stop light glows red telling people who are looking at it to stop and wait. I believe the red lights mean stop and take a moment to realise that there are homeless people in this city and be aware and help if you can. If everyone can see these lights and the lights go on (flashing) many times a day then one would be worried about the number of homeless people in the city who cannot afford the necessities.

To people in Dublin today, homelessness is not seen even by those in government who fail to act effectively to help. If we were to make the spire (Dublin’s ugliest sculpture) flash, a bright red every time an individual were to enter a shelter we would take a lot more notice of homelessness. This could lead to government acting effectively to help solve this issue because they would receive a lot more pressure due to larger public awareness thanks to the flashing bright red light.

Art has that affect, to mobilize the masses and to inspire individuals. These two things can make a difference just like art. Any work I produce, I do not just want it to sit on a pedestal to be admired and/or criticised. I want it to shake up emotions in people who see it, to allow people to question it and themselves and for the art to say something. The piece(s) also needs to speak for itself and or the issue it is representing. It would have a voice low enough to sit in a museum space but loud enough for people to hear it scream.

Alfredo Jaar’s work does this for me. It stirs up emotions inside of me, frustrating me enough to ask why? To a lot of things I othewise wouldnt ask. This is all I ask art to do and this is what I hope my work will do. Giving the circumstances that Ireland and the world are in I don’t thik there has been a better time for art to really stand above all and say something.

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